August 31, 2012
1. Rough Terrain for Research: Studying Early Adopters of Biotech Crops
Melinda Smale (Michigan State University)
Measuring the economic impacts of GM crops in developing agriculture poses particular challenges. In order to ensure that information generated is relevant and usable, continued improvement in methods is needed as diffusion of these crops steadily expands. In the first decade of published studies, given the characteristics of early adoption, researchers were not often able to effectively control for various types of potential bias created by sampling, measurement, or estimation methods. Several published studies present exemplary approaches. The objective of pilot studies assembled here, all based on farmer surveys, was to attempt to apply recommended approaches within a constrained budget of $20,000-40,000 in countries and crops that had received little research attention. Case studies present findings, illustrate difficulties, and suggest means of overcoming them. Overall, we call for establishing research consortia to monitor the impacts of GM crops based on comprehensive national sampling frames in which ad hoc surveys can be embedded.
2. Unweaving the Threads: The Experiences of Female Farmers with Biotech Cotton in Colombia
Patricia Zambrano (International Food Policy Research Institute), Melinda Smale (Michigan State University), Jorge H. Maldonado (Universidad de los Andes), & Sandra L. Mendoza (Kungliga Tekniska
Although the literature on gender in agriculture is extensive, gender has been under studied in the published literature about biotech crops in developing countries. To explore whether gender affects access to and use of biotech cotton, we developed and tested a participatory, qualitative approach. Despite the perception that women participate little in cotton production in Colombia, some women manage their own plots, and many share production responsibilities with their spouses.
Men and women perceive the costs and benefits of biotech cotton differently. Female farmers who managed their own plots stated that they preferred insect-resistant varieties over conventional varieties primarily because these reduce the number of laborers they must hire to spray pesticides, a task performed solely by men. Both male and female farmers identified the lack of adequate and timely information about biotech cotton as a major disadvantage, but the problem appeared to be more limiting for female farmers.
3. Caught Between Scylla and Charybdis: Impact Estimation Issues from the Early Adoption of GM Maize in Honduras
José Falck-Zepeda (International Food Policy Research Institute), Arie Sanders, Carlos Rogelio Trabanino, & Rolando Batallas-Huacon (Panamerican Agricultural School )
Insect-resistant/herbicide-tolerant (Bt/RR) maize has been approved for commercialization in Honduras, and has been sold commercially since 2006. In 2007-2008, we conducted a survey of 113 farmers in the country, including 67 Bt/RR adopters and 46 conventional maize users.
We also conducted agronomic, small- and large-plot experiments in situ and one crop-cycle planting with a Farmer Field School. Adopters were few and difficult to locate in a random sampling framework. We applied a battery of diagnostic and estimation methods to address these problems of outliers and endogeneity. Results based on robust and instrumental variables regression of survey data suggest that in the presence of target insects, producers may observe reduced pest damage and/or a decrease in pesticide applications. Results are quite sensitive to the presence of outliers. Nevertheless, results from the agronomic, in situ, and Farmer Field School tend to support the conclusions from our survey analysis.
4. Impacts of Bt Maize on Smallholder Income in the Philippines
Jose M. Yorobe, Jr. (University of the Philippines-Los Baños) & Melinda Smale (Michigan State University)
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize is the first genetically modified crop to be introduced to Philippine farmers. Since its commercialization in 2003, evidence has accumulated regarding the economic benefits of adopting Bt maize. Based on data collected from
466 farmers, this research focuses specifically on the selection and endogeneity bias that has not yet been explicitly addressed; it also tests the impacts of adoption on net farm income, off-farm income of the farmer, and total household income, including income from crops and livestock, off-farm income of the farmer, and income of all household members. Regression results are compared for OLS regress and two types of instrumental variables methods. Accounting for self-selection and endogeneity, adoption of Bt maize increases net farm income, off-farm income, and household income. The predicted probability that a household’s income falls below the poverty line is lower among Bt maize adopters. However, we have not fully addressed placement bias.
5. GM Maize as Subsistence Crop: The South African Smallholder Experience
Marnus Gouse (University of Pretoria)
The South African smallholder GM maize experience has been--to date and internationally--the only example where a subsistence crop is produced by smallholder resource poor-farmers using GM seed. Their experience is thus of great interest, especially to African decision makers, international food and agricultural organizations, and the technology innovators. This article sheds light on eight years of research investigating the socio-economic impacts of GM maize adoption by smallholder farmers in South Africa. The main objective of the article is to highlight methodological and practical research challenges faced in this project in order to inform future socio-economic impact assessments and to contextualize research findings. Limited project findings are presented in the form of a discussion on the characteristics of early-adopting farmers and the yield impacts of GM maize adoption over the eight season period, emphasizing the variability between seasons and to show how methodological limitations impact research findings.
6. Bi-Modal Preferences for Bt Maize in the Philippines: A Latent Class Model
Ekin Birol (International Food Policy Research Institute), Melinda Smale (Michigan State University), & Jose M. Yorobe, Jr. (University of the Philippines-Los Baños)
The only country in Asia to have approved a biotech food or feed crop is the Philippines, where Bt maize was initially commercialized in 2003. This study uses the choice experiment method and a latent class model to differentiate among maize producers and estimate their willingness to pay for Bt seed and other important attributes. Two segments are identified with markedly different willingness to pay and different preferences with respect to information and seed acquisition. The bi-modality of preferences confirms the importance of marketing and extension strategies that are tailored to the diversity of farm populations and agro-ecologies of the maize sector in the Philippines. The supply of credit for seed acquisition is likely to constitute an important policy instrument for diffusing all improved, yellow maize seed, including both biotech and non-biotech hybrids. The authors consider the choice experiment method as an appropriate technique to investigate the preferences of new seed adopters but caution applied researchers regarding its hypothetical bias, framing, and preparation.
7. A Case of Resistance: Herbicide-tolerant Soybeans in Bolivia
Melinda Smale (Michigan State University), Patricia Zambrano (International Food Policy Research Institute), Rodrigo Paz-Ybarnegaray (Fundación Valles, Cochabamba), & Willy Fernández Montaño (Independent Consultant)
The Bolivian National Constitution of 2009 prohibits the commercialization of genetically modified organisms, but the decree permitting the unique event of glyphosate resistance was enacted earlier. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybean is the only transgenic crop grown by farmers in Bolivia, introduced initially by farmers. This pilot study of smallholders was conducted in the midst of political sensitivities and exceptional weather. Results support the hypotheses that adoption of HT soybeans is associated with use of less toxic herbicides and that Mennonite farmers are a primary source of HT seed and related information. The association that subsidized non-HT growers is the major source for conventional seed. Using a control function approach to address endogeneity and selection bias with censored outcome variables, we find that HT soybean adoption has a large, positive impact on household off-farm income and is positively related to off-farm work of the second major contributor to soybean production (wife or children of household head), but not that of the first (household head)
8. Analysis of Contracting Alternatives for Switchgrass as a Production Alternative on an East Tennessee Beef and Crop Farm
Andrew P. Griffith, James A. Larson, Burton C. English, & Dan L. McLemore (University of Tennennssee)
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has prompted the development of renewable energy. The research objective was to determine what contracting terms provide sufficient incentives for farmers to establish switchgrass on high- and low-quality cropland compared to traditional enterprises on a representative East Tennessee farm. Contracting alternatives, including a spot market, University of Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, and an expected yield contract, were analyzed. It was determined that contracting incentives analyzed would not be sufficient to encourage switchgrass production on any cropland on the representative farm.
9. The Impact of Corn Rootworm Protected Biotechnology Traits in the United States
Michele C. Marra, Nicholas E. Piggott, & Barry K. Goodwin (North Carolina State University)
Recently, one type of corn rootworm has developed resistance to a single strain of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is genetically engineered into corn seed. This resistance development has occurred in small, localized areas of the Corn Belt, where corn has been grown continuously for a period of time. Some have suggested that the remedy for this problem is to revert back to a significantly higher-percentage, structured refuge to avoid further resistance development. This article explores the economic consequences of such a plan. Those consequences include lower average corn yields, leading to higher corn prices for all consumers of corn (including livestock
producers) and corn sweetener, ethanol producers, and consumers of corn globally; less net income for corn producers; higher yield variability, leading to higher price volatility; negative environmental impacts; and higher human-safety risks. A more balanced approach to the problem is recommended; this includes best management, integrated pest-management practices, a phasing out of single corn rootworm-traited corn, and increased use of multiple corn rootworm-traited corn.